Three Transgender Web Comics That You Simply Must Read!
Written by Kevin Dennison
I’ve been a huge fan of comic books and graphic novels for years. Some of my favorites to read as of late have been Brian Azzarello’s run of Wonder Woman (issues #1 – #35), Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s current work on Batman (issues #1 – #38), The Walking Dead (all of it), and I’m really digging the zaniness of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s current go at Harley Quinn! However, as a transgender individual who identifies as transfeminine and pansexual, it is disappointing that one thing that I struggle to find any representation of in any of those mainstream DC or Marvel comics is well-written, respectful stories featuring characters who are LGBTQI+.
This is particularly true of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex representation as comics more often than not show trans* characters as the butt of a bad joke or explain away their gender identity/expression in some sort of death-and-rebirth storyline or a ridiculous body swap plot. Don’t even get me started on intersex visibility, which is practically unheard of in the world of comics. The only notable character as of late has been Alysia Yeoh, who was introduced as Barbara Gordon’s new roommate in Batgirl #1. Not only is she a strong, well-written character in general but she also happens to be out as bisexual AND she is the one-and-only character in all of DC Comics’ 65 titles who is openly transgender as of Batgirl #19. There are also some fans who have suggested that Kate Kane, aka Batwoman, who is an out lesbian, is also transgender or gender non-conforming to some degree. However, this is never explicitly addressed in the comic and despite Kate’s fantastic tendency to challenge other people’s gender expectations through how she expresses herself, she very obviously self-identifies as a woman throughout the series.
Unfortunately, hopeful instances like this are few and far between at this point so if you really want to read some quality stories where transgender, gender non-conforming (GNC), and intersex characters are prominently featured in an intelligent and respectful way, you’ll have to venture into the world of web comics. Here are three that I strongly recommend you start with!
Created by Sophie Labelle in 2014, Assigned Male has quickly become a highly regarded comic online. The series follows 11-year-old Stephie, who was assigned-male-at-birth, as she navigates through the many struggles and hurdles as a transgender girl in a world that fears and misunderstands her. A father struggling to accept his child’s gender identity, classmates who don’t realize how hurtful their words really are, and close friends who are also struggling with their own gender identity and expression, are just a few of the things that Stephie has going on in her life.
One of the things I love most about this comic is how it addresses so many things that directly affect transgender, gender non-conforming and intersex youth on a daily basis. The current ongoing plot line has Stephie and her friends fighting against their school on its discriminatory bathroom usage policies and previous plots have seen her standing up against school yard bullies, what it feels like to be outed by somebody else, discrimination from within the LGBTQI+ community, and more.
Also of note is how many gender identities are represented in the characters centric to Stephie’s story. While the focus is certainly on her transition, she also becomes close friends with other transgender and GNC classmate who quickly become a big part of her life.
Aside from all of these narratives, Assigned Male also does a great job of providing numerous educational strips that introduce readers to gender identity labels, every day transgender issues, how to be a great ally to transgender, GNC, and intersex individuals, as well as the various degrees of transition, among many other topics!
You can read Assigned Male from the beginning, starting here: http://assignedmale.tumblr.com/page/91
I don’t always agree with all of the opinions expressed within Validation, however, I love that reading it has challenged me to rethink some of my own perspectives and I highly respect how the comic does not hold back in directly addressing a great deal of heavily debated transgender issues in very thoughtful and creative ways. Created by Christian Beranek and Kelci Crawford, Validation focuses on a transgender girl named Ally as she navigates the social, cultural, and political landscape that many transgender, GNC, and intersex individuals across North America must traverse in their lives. It all makes for a rather fascinating and informative read!
Furthermore, I also must applaud Validation for how honestly it addresses very sensitive topics such as navigating the binary dating world, the difficulty in maintaining healthy friendships after coming out, contemplating the usage of identity labels, stressing over “passing” as your gender, what dysphoria feels like, how everybody transitions differently, and what it is like dealing with transphobia and slurs on a daily basis.
I’m a third of a way through the 160+ strips and I simply can’t stop reading it! So, this is another winner in my books!
You can read Validation in it’s entirety starting here: http://www.validationcomic.com/comic/validation-1/
Trans Girl Next Door
This one one really hits home for me as it really shows how much transitioning can improve your mental and emotional health, as well as your general happiness, when you have been experiencing severe gender dysphoria. It provides an insightful, genuine, and hilarious look into the mind of somebody who is finally living life as they were always meant to. The comic is based on the real life experiences and observations of Kylie Wu as she recounts her “transition into womanhood and adult life as a 20 something trans gal.”
It’s funny, clever, adorable, intelligent, educational, heartwarming, sweet, and disarmingly deep at times. Simply put, Trans Girl Next Door contains some of the best, most inspiring writing I’ve seen on diverse gender identities and issues, all while managing to consistently make me laugh through Kylie’s incredibly charismatic personality. She just tells her daily story in such an entertaining, uplifting and inspiring way that it is hard NOT to get hooked!
I think what I love so much is the message that through all of the frustrations, the anxieties, the fears, and the adversity that Kylie faces throughout her transition the simple fact is that she is a happier person having decided to live life as her authentic self. I want to be Kylie when I grow up!
Read Trans Girl Next Door here: http://transgirlnextdoor.tumblr.com/